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On Chernobyl anniversary, UN chief says impact of disaster must never be forgotten

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26 April 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today marked the 27th anniversary of the worst nuclear power plant accident in history by stressing that the impact of the Chernobyl disaster must never be forgotten and calling for continued international assistance for the people and regions affected.

“As we today mark 27 years after the Chernobyl disaster, we honour the emergency workers who risked their lives responding to the accident, the more than 330,000 people uprooted from their homes and the millions of people living in contaminated areas who have long been traumatized by lingering fears about their health and livelihoods,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

“The countless women, men and children affected by radioactive contamination must never be forgotten.”

In 2011, Mr. Ban became the first United Nations Secretary-General to visit the Chernobyl site, witnessing first hand the “great resilience” being demonstrated by the people affected by the explosion that occurred at the plant in Ukraine in 1986.

“The affected area is still suffering from the impact of the accident,” noted today’s statement. “Environmental damage to food chains, land and water will in many cases last for years. At the same time, we can take heart from the fact that communities there now have the chance and, increasingly, the means, to lead a normal life.”

Towards this end, the General Assembly proclaimed 2006-2016 a “Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development” for the affected regions. There is also a UN Action Plan on Chernobyl which contains a declaration of principles embraced by all UN agencies involved in recovery efforts and emphasizes social and economic development and the promotion of healthy lifestyles and community self-reliance.

“Those coping with the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster are demonstrating great resilience. But they continue to need support,” said the statement.

“The Secretary-General calls on the international community to demonstrate generosity in helping affected regions as they strive for a long-sought return to normalcy.”

Mr. Ban also reiterated the UN’s commitment to stand by those affected by the disaster, and to work for greater nuclear safety and sustainable energy worldwide.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44762&Cr=nuclear&Cr1=

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UN to support China in ending production of ozone-depleting substances by 2030

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23 April 2013 – With United Nations support, the Government of China has agreed to completely eliminate its industrial production of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 2030, the world Organization announced today.

In what it billed as a “landmark decision,” the Executive Committee of the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer announced that it would provide China, the largest global producer and consumer of HCFCs, with up to $385 million for the eradication of ODS production as well as for retiring its unutilized surplus production capacity.

“China will close and dismantle its production lines producing only HCFCs for uses controlled under the Montreal Protocol and ensure that any HCFC plants that will receive funding do not switch to producing HCFCs as industrial feedstock,” according to a press statement released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) which oversees the Montreal Protocol.

“China will also coordinate with stakeholders and make best efforts to manage HCFC production and associated by-product production in HCFC plants in accordance with best practices to minimize associated climate impacts.”

The Montreal Protocol aims to protect the ozone layer by taking measures to control total global production and consumption of substances that deplete it, with the ultimate objective of their elimination. Since its ratification in 1987, it has successfully phased out 97 per cent of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer around the world.

In 2007, however, countries meeting in Canada, under the Montreal Protocol, agreed to speeding up the freeze and phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) – chemicals designed to replace the old, more ozone-damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

According to data provided by UNEP, China produces 92 per cent of the total HCFC production of developing countries with most of the chemicals supplied to the world’s refrigeration, air conditioning and foam manufacturing sectors but also utilized for solvents, fire protection, and the sterilization of medical devices.

Over the next four years, China will receive $95 million to cover the first stage of its HFC production phase-out to help the Asian country achieve the freeze in HCFC production by 2013 and the reduction by 10 per cent by 2015 as mandated by the Protocol.

Moreover, the Government of China estimates that the total amount of HCFCs to be eliminated by this new initiative will prevent the emission of over 4.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions.

China’s new push for HCFC elimination is not only potentially the largest project approved so far under the Protocol since its inception, but it is also key in paving the way for other developing countries to follow suit, the statement added.

“The phase-out of HCFC production in China is fundamental to ensure the compliance of all developing countries with the Montreal Protocol and the overall success of the Protocol.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44728&Cr=ozone&Cr1=

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UN-backed Asian forum highlights transportation’s role in sustainable development

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23 April 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed efforts by Asian countries meeting at a United Nations-backed regional forum to address transportation as part of the effort to fight climate change and achieve sustainable development.

In his message to the opening of the Seventh Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia and Global Consultation on Sustainable Transport in the post 2015 Development Agenda, the Secretary-General commended delegates for discussing next-generation transport systems for the 21st century.

“On a global scale it is essential that we better design and build transport infrastructure to make it safer and more environmentally friendly, and to minimize vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters,” stressed Mr. Ban, who also said he would “welcome” the forum’s ideas and suggestions on defining “a transformative post-2015 development agenda.”

The two-day meeting, held in Bali, Indonesia, will explore a variety of issues related to transport in relation to the outcome of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20 under the theme Next Generation Transport System We Want for 21st Century~ Looking Beyond Rio+20.

Topics include the promotion of public bicycle schemes, greenways initiatives for converting road space into leaner parks and high quality pedestrian areas, and the full integration of public transport modes.

In addressing the importance of sustainable transport, Mr. Ban also noted that access to goods and services through efficient means was “essential” not only in preserving the environment but also in reducing poverty.

“In both urban and rural areas, better land-use and transport system planning makes a great difference in facilitating access to jobs, goods and services for men and women alike. It also helps improve road safety and reduce traffic accidents and fatalities,” he continued.

Echoing this point in a message delivered today to Brazil’s National Association of Mayors, the Secretary-General also urged Brazil’s local officials to renew their commitment to developing sustainable cities in order to ensure better lives for the growing numbers of people who inhabit the world’s urban environments.

“As agreed at the Rio+20 Summit, and as can be seen day by day through the innovative steps being taken in the world’s cities and towns, local Governments have a crucial role to play in steering the world towards a path of truly sustainable and equitable urban development,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by Giancarlo Summa, the UN Resident Coordinator in Brazil.

“We need your dynamism in accelerating our work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline,” he continued. “We need your vision in addressing climate change, a paramount threat. And we need your voices to be heard as we define a transformative post-2015 development agenda.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44730&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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On Mother Earth Day, UN Member States urged to promote harmony with nature

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22 April 2013 – Top United Nations officials today urged the 193 Member States to renew their pledges to honour and respect Mother Earth marking the day selected by the world body to promote harmony with nature and sustainable development.

Today is a “chance to reaffirm our collective responsibility to promote harmony with nature,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature held to mark International Mother Earth Day.

Noting this year’s theme, Faces of Climate Change, Mr. Ban urged the UN General Assembly “to confront the hard truth that our planet is under threat.”

He noted that unsustainable exploitation of natural resources is eroding fragile ecosystems, destroying biodiversity, depleting fish stocks by short-sighted commercial fishing and threatening marine food chains by raising the acidity in oceans.

“When we threaten the planet, we undermine our only home – and our future survival,” Mr. Ban said, calling on countries to ensure that upcoming development strategies include measures to support and sustain Mother Earth.

“On this International Day, let us renew our pledges to honour and respect Mother Earth,” Mr. Ban urged.

In his speech, Mr. Ban also noted the growing momentum among world leaders to support sustainable development, citing in particular the efforts of Bolivia, which adopted a legal framework that specifically protects Mother Earth, with the rights of nature included in the national Constitution, and which led the effort to create the Day.

Since 2009, the UN General Assembly has marked International Mother Earth Day on Earth Day or 22 April, expressing its conviction that, to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, “it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the Earth.”

The General Assembly’s current president, Vuk Jeremic, emphasized that “the irreversible torrent of physical and ecological transformations across the globe is threatening us with a future reality that is profoundly different from anything that we have experienced until now.”

As a result, the General Assembly is planning for a series of events to boost the efforts towards the 2015 anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 agenda.

These include the Secretary-General’s high-level panel of eminent persons created in the wake of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). To take place at the end of May.

The General Assembly also plans to hold a thematic debate on 16 May on the nexus of water and energy, organized in collaboration with the newly established UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Jeremic said.

Meanwhile, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today launched the “Think-Eat-Save: Reduce Your Footprint” Campaign aimed at reducing at least one-third of all food produced that never makes it from the farm to the fork. The countdown comes ahead of World Environment Day, marked annually on 5 June.

As part of the effort, UNEP is calling on people across the world to share their traditional knowledge and ideas of food preservation whether it be biltong in South Africa, pickling or jam making, sauerkraut in Germany, or the way shark meat is ripened and preserved in ice in Iceland.

“Every loss and waste of food represents a loss of the energy involved in growing the food in the first place, and the fuel spent needlessly on transporting produce from farms to shops and homes, often across the globe,” UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner said in his message for the Day.

Mr. Steiner added that a “small but significant amounts of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – are linked to food thrown away into the globe’s landfills, in addition to emissions linked with livestock and forests cleared for food that is never eaten.”

In addition, FAO today announced that it has adopted the first Global Plan for Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources.

According to a news release, FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture adopted the plan last week and are set for final approval of it in June.

Among the key priority areas for action include improving the availability of and access to information on forest genetic resources; development of the worldwide conservation strategy; and sustainable use, development and management of forest genetic resources.

The UN just wrapped up a two-week Forum on Forests in Istanbul, Turkey, to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment.

Estimates of the number of tree species worldwide vary from 80,000 to 100,000, UNEP said. Forest ecosystems remain essential refuges for biodiversity, and 12 per cent of the world’s forests are designated primarily for the conservation of biological diversity.

Following his presentation to the Mother Earth Day event, Secretary-General Ban today spoke to partners of his initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. Given the threats to the planet from energy consumption and the fact that over a billion people lack of access to electricity, Mr. Ban said: “We need a paradigm shift – a transformation – in the way we produce, use and share energy.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44723&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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FORESTS: UN forum endorses measures to improve sustainable forest management

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20 April 2013 – The United Nations Forum on Forests concluded its tenth session in Istanbul in the early hours of Saturday after agreeing on a series of measures to improve the sustainable management of forests, and deciding to consider setting up a voluntary global fund to support this endeavour.

The Forum, which met for the first time away from UN Headquarters in New York, adopted two resolutions as it wrapped up its two-week session, one on forests and economic development ­– the main theme of the session – and the other on financing.

Recognizing the vital role of forests to lives and livelihoods, the 197 member countries of the Forum called on national governments to take a range of actions to improve sustainable forest management, from substantive data collection to addressing the causes of deforestation and forests degradation.

Also, while recognizing that there is no single solution to meet all forest financing needs, the Forum agreed that multiple sources of financing, at the national, regional and international levels, was needed from various sources, public and private, including consideration of a voluntary global forest fund.

Forests cover one-third of the Earth’s landmass and about 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood. Three-fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchment areas and forests stabilize slopes, prevent landslides and protect coastal communities against tsunamis and storms. More than three billion people depend on forests for wood for cooking and heating.

“There is now greater recognition than ever before that forests are essential to economic development and sustainable development,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of Forum’s Secretariat.

“In this historic meeting, countries broke new ground and agreed to take actions that demonstrate the need to sustainably manage our forests so that they can continue to be a source of livelihoods, broader economic development, including clean air, clean water and biodiversity – all leading to poverty eradication.”

The two-week session was attended by two Prime Ministers, one Vice President and over 50 ministers and high-level officials. Highlights included events showcasing sustainable forest management best practices and the individuals and countries that have actually put these practices into innovative use, as well as awards honouring activists, filmmakers and photographers from around the world.

The Forum, set up by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2000, is the only international body that addresses all forest and tree policy issues. Countries will decide at the next session in 2015 how the functions of the Forum will continue internationally, as well as whether there is a need to develop a global treaty on forests.

“The successful outcome of [the session] proves once again the key and unique value-added role of the Forum as a global policy-setting body on all types of forests,” said Mario Ruales Carranza of Ecuador, the Chair of the Forum’s tenth session, hailing the outcome as “a new milestone” in financing forests and economic development.

The deliberations over the past two weeks had paved the way for a positive future and would no doubt contribute significantly to the next session in 2015, when “crucial decisions” would be taken regarding the future of the world’s woodlands and the UN institutions promoting their proper stewardship, he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44713&Cr=Forests&Cr1=

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FEATURE: UN-backed partnership helps Kenyans protect forests, improve livelihoods

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19 April 2013 – A United Nations-backed project in Kenya is protecting forests and wildlife, as well as providing alternative livelihoods, and offers valuable lessons on how governments and the private sector can successfully work together for the betterment of communities and the environment.

The project is run through the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), which seeks to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies to sustainable development.

The Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project is protecting 200,000 hectares – 500,000 acres – of dryland forest in south-eastern Kenya in a vital wildlife and biodiversity corridor between two national parks, Tsavo East and Tsavo West.

Nearly 150,000 rural Kenyans are benefitting from the distribution of revenues from the sale of the carbon offsets in the project, which is carried out with private sector partner Wildlife Works.

“The fundamental purpose of Wildlife Works is to take the pressure off natural resources, particularly forest-based resources, by creating an environment of alternative livelihoods,” said Bryan Adkins of the Kasigau REDD+ Project.

“It’s a social enterprise, which means that it puts the value of community input and community involvement at the forefront of its mission,” he added.

Mr. Adkins noted that, in the Kasigau corridor, impoverished communities are often forced to “leverage the landscape” to make ends meet, to feed their families, to clothe their children and provide for their basic needs.

Wildlife Works was able to sign agreements with the community groups that owned the land in the corridor for management rights in return for a dividend to the groups, thereby being able to manage the forest resources in a “non-consumptive” way towards generating carbon credits.

The revenue generated from those carbon credits, said Mr. Adkins, is re-invested into the community in three “pots” – a direct dividend to the landowners themselves, the continuing operation of managing the land, and directly into the community through Wildlife Works’ ‘carbon trust’ for development projects.

“What we found is that in addition to generating meaningful carbon offsets, meaningful REDD emissions reductions, the project has been able to generate significant ‘co-benefits’,” he stated. “The co-benefits come in two packages, and are probably as important, if not more important, in gaining the acceptance of the project at the sub-national level and national level.”

In terms of biodiversity co-benefits, the project has documented measureable and verifiable increases in “high conservation value species” such as lions, elephants and cheetahs. There has also been significant landscape recovery in areas that had previously been degraded or deforested completely, Mr. Adkins said.

The social co-benefits include alternative livelihoods for the people of the area thanks to an increase in investors and strategic partnerships. This includes the creation of a clothing factory in the area to provide jobs so people do not have to be involved in activities such as charcoaling or illegal wood extraction.

Companies such as Puma and SOKO have both invested heavily in an eco-clothing factory, which provides around 150 jobs in the area – which is significant, Mr. Adkins noted, for an area which had very little external investment before the project.

“All of this is done through a very collaborative approach with the Kenya Forest Service,” he stated, adding that its support was “very evident” throughout the project.

The Kenya Forest Service is a semi-autonomous agency set up in 2007 to conserve, develop and sustainably manage forest resources for the country’s socio-economic development. It is managed by a board of directors drawn from both the private and public sectors that has the mandate to oversee the development of the entire forest sector.

Forests play a vital role in the life of the East African nation, where 70 per cent of the population of 40 million is engaged in agriculture, and 70 per cent of the energy demand is met from wood and charcoal, which are the main sources for cooking and heating.

According to a mapping exercise carried out in 2010 with the help of the Japanese Government, the forest area in Kenya is nearly 7 per cent. The country’s forests fall into five categories: natural/indigenous forests, including mangroves; industrial plantation forests; private forests; dryland forests; and urban forests.

The establishment of the Kenya Forest Service is just one of several reforms and measures taken by the Government to create an enabling environment for investment in the sustainable management of forests.

As part of the reforms, the Government promulgated the Forest Act in 2005, marking a “fundamental shift” in that the old legislation did not provide for community participation, said Patrick Kariuki of the Kenya Forest Service.

“The new legislation is very strong on community participation and also provides for private sector investment. This we consider as very key to bringing the private sector and communities on board in a fair and formal manner.”

The country also has a blueprint – Vision 2030 – that aims to move Kenya to a middle-income country by 2030. “Within this blueprint, we have key targets for the forest sector, especially with regard to supporting forestry protection, conservation and development,” Mr. Kariuki stated.

The reforms have led to an increase in public financing for the forest sector – a 200 per cent increase to $7.5 billion in the current financial year. They have also led to more partners in the forestry sector; an increase in community participation; greater investment by the private sector; and resource mobilization from other sectors in the economy that benefit from the ecology services of forests such as energy and water.

The success of the REDD+ project owes much to the reforms undertaken by Kenya, Mr. Adkins stressed. “We found from our limited experience that an enabling legal environment and enabling institutional networks are the key to making this happen.”

He cited several critical factors in this regard, including the explicit support of the Kenyan Government in creating an enabling investment environment and in creating a law enforcement environment which allows property rights and tenure to be enforced in a way without creating tensions.

“This collaboration has also been extremely meaningful in creating examples of how the government and the private sector can actually play a key role together in the local community, at the local level,” stated Mr. Adkins.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44704&Cr=forest&Cr1=

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Energy, climate change and poverty top Ban’s agenda on sidelines of World Bank-IMF meeting

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19 April 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is meeting today with public and private donors on the sidelines of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington DC to discuss financing energy, poverty and sustainable development projects to boost progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“The United Nations and the World Bank are strongly committed to working with each other, and with our many partners in civil society and the private sector, to bring positive change into the lives of people,” the Secretary-General said in a poverty event this morning alongside the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim.

Mr. Ban said the world is at a “tipping point” and urged the World Bank and other financial partners to raise the momentum to break out of the poverty trap and address the injustices of inequality by supporting the MDGs and the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Also today, Mr. Ban and Mr. Kim co-chaired the first meeting of the Advisory Board of the Sustainable Energy for All. Comprised of 42 representatives of business, finance, governments and civil society, the global public-private partnership aims to provide universal access to modern energy; double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; and also double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

“Sustainable Energy for All marks a new era in UN-World Bank relations. Together we have unparalleled convening power,” Mr. Ban told the audience.

Sustainable Energy for All’s ten-member executive committee is chaired by Chad Holliday from the Bank of America, and includes UN Foundation vice chairperson Timothy Wirth and UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning Robert Orr.

They are tasked with undertaking high-level advocacy for action on energy and mobilising businesses, investors and civil society to move forward with ‘high-impact initiatives’ related to off-grid lighting, growing energy efficiency, energy for women’s health and the procurement of renewable energy.

“The initiative has demonstrated the ability to mobilise multibillion-dollar commitments, leverage large-scale investments and build on a rapidly expanding knowledge network,” the UN and World Bank said in a joint statement, adding that projects under its umbrella have been launched in more than 70 countries.

In the statement, Mr. Kim noted that more than 1.2 billion people are without access to electricity, and another 2.8 billion use solid fuels to cook and heat their homes.

“Delivering universal access to electricity and safe household fuels is a fundamental condition to end poverty. We have to meet this challenge in a sustainable way that also takes into consideration the battle against climate change,” he said.

Kandeh Yumkella is Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All. He recently appeared in a public service announcement with former US president Al Gore and supermodel and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen to urge support for the initiative.

Turning to Governments, Mr. Ban urged Ministers at a meeting on sustainable development and climate change financing to deliver on their climate commitments and serve as catalysts for private funding,

“Governments have agreed to the objective of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 from public and private sources. I am committed to achieving this goal, and I count on you to help me to bring the public and private sectors together to overcome barriers to climate investments.”

“Climate finance is an investment in the future and must not be constrained by these times of austerity,” he emphasized.

Mr. Ban noted that climate change is the “greatest threat to all our development objectives” and impacts the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

As a result, he will convene a related high-level meeting in New York next year on the topic, he said.

“I am inviting leaders to engage in providing solutions that can deliver an ambitious agreement. We must do our utmost to focus political attention on climate change and accelerate progress on the ground at all levels.

Also in Washington today, the Secretary-General met with, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, to discuss the post-2015 development agenda, and the Development Cooperation Forum planned for 2014.

According to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban welcomed the UK’s leadership role in promoting effectiveness and accountability in development cooperation.

Before returning to New York today, Mr. Ban is expected to meet with the heads of multilateral development banks to welcome the growing collaboration between those banks, the UN system and the Bretton Woods institutions.

He is expected to call for the mobilization of adequate financing for coordinated global efforts to achieve lagging MDGs, and for a coherent framework for post-2015 priorities.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44710&Cr=mdg&Cr1=

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FORESTS: Amazon treaty body hailed as model for regional conservation efforts

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18 April 2013 – An eight-member grouping of countries working to ensure sustainable development and improve the lives of local communities in South America’s Amazon – home to the world’s largest tropical rainforest – has been hailed as a model for regional cooperation at the tenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF10).

The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) is an intergovernmental body aimed at promoting the sustainable development of an area spanning over 7.5 million square kilometers – approximately 40 per cent of the South American continent. It comprises Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

Jan McAlpine, Director of the Forum’s Secretariat, hailed ACTO as one of the “outstanding examples” of regional cooperation, as well as South-South cooperation, when it comes to the conservation and sustainable management of forests.

She noted that ACTO’s core group is home to the world’s largest tropical forest basin, with 25 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources, “amazing” traditional and indigenous societies, major reserves of timbre and non-timbre forests, and immense ecological, cultural and economic wealth.

Member countries of ACTO, she added, represent the “leaders” in thinking about how the issues of communities in the Amazon need to be addressed.

“ACTO gives us the space, the platform to coordinate action. It is a laboratory where we can build a common vision for sustainable development,” said Ambassador Mario Ruales Carranza of Ecuador, who is also Chair of the Forum’s current session in Istanbul.

The Amazon Basin, he noted, has huge reserves of energy and mineral resources. “When we talk about the Amazon, we are talking about one of the most important ecosystems in the world.” However, being a rich and diverse ecosystem, it also faces many pressures and threats, he added.

ACTO was created in 1995 to strengthen the implementation of the Treaty, which was signed in July 1978. The Treaty covers a range of areas, including forests, water resources, monitoring and management of endangered wild fauna and flora species, indigenous affairs, and tourism.

The body’s Permanent Secretariat was later established in Brasilia, Brazil, in 2002. Its agenda focuses on two main areas: conservation and sustainable use of renewable natural resources; and sustainable development (improving the quality of life for the inhabitants of the Amazon region).

Between 2011 and 2012, member countries implemented activities to monitor forest cover, strengthen community management of forests, identify additional resources for forest preservation, promote awareness among the population of the Amazon, and promote international cooperation to combat illegal logging, according to the Executive Director of ACTO’s Permanent Secretariat.

Mauricio Dorfler noted that the Amazon has the greatest continuous forest coverage in the world, and is home to millions of species as well as over 30 million inhabitants, including approximately 385 indigenous groups.

“The biological and cultural wealth is a comparative advantage for the development of the region,” he said. “But it also highlights the need to reconcile the interests of conservation and sustainable development with benefits for indigenous peoples and local communities.”

He said ACTO has been able, over the past two years, to carry out a number of regional actions. Future challenges for the regional body include consolidating institutional reforms and securing additional funding for the Secretariat; expanding and diversifying sources of cooperation; and giving greater visibility to the work of the organization.

“I want to invite other international cooperation agencies and governments to join this regional effort that shows that Amazon countries together can cope with the challenges that arise,” he stated.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently in the final stages of preparing a memorandum of understanding with ACTO to strengthen collaboration between the two bodies in a number of areas of mutual interest.

“Through this new cooperation agreement with ACTO, FAO is gearing up to support integrated activities for improving production of goods and services in the Amazon region in a sustainable manner, eradicating hunger and reducing poverty and malnutrition, and improving resilience of people and ecosystems,” said FAO Forestry Officer Peter Csoka.

The agreement is expected to be finalized and signed later this year.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44693&Cr=forest&Cr1=

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FORESTS: Investing in healthy forests vital for transition to green economy, UN says

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17 April 2013 – Investing in healthy forests is not only vital for human and environmental well-being but also crucial in the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Over a billion people worldwide depend on forests for shelter, jobs, food, water, medicine and security. Forests also serve as carbon sinks and stabilize global climate, regulate water cycles and provide habitats for biodiversity while hosting a wide variety of genetic resources.

“Forests provide essential services to all of us,” said UNEP’s Tim Christophersen, Senior Programme Officer dealing with forests and climate change.

“It has a lot of multiple benefits for the work that we do for livelihoods, for water security, for food security, for landscape management and also for agriculture,” he added in an interview during the tenth session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF10) in Istanbul.

“Forests provide a lot of essential services for food production – for example, by generating the rainfall that we need for agriculture, by retaining drinking water and water for irrigation, and by providing also the habitat for insects that pollinate agricultural crops. Without forests, there would be no functioning agricultural landscapes.”

Yet despite the myriad benefits derived from forests, they are still being destroyed at a rate of 13 million hectares annually, according to UNEP, which stresses that investing in forest management and reforestation activities could contribute significantly to the transition to a green economy – one that is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

“Practically speaking, a green economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services,” the agency stated.

Investing in forest management and reforestation, it added, would also reduce the vulnerability and risk posed by increasing climate change.

The UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) – joint venture by UNEP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – seeks to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies to sustainable development.

“The aim,” said Mr. Christophersen, “is to support developing countries to reduce deforestation so the forests can capture more carbon, mitigate climate change, help those countries adapt to climate change and make a contribution to their national economies.”

“One of the best things about forests is that they are renewable,” he continued. “You can actually harvest from the forests but still retain the natural capital that the forests present. That’s called sustainable forest management. You can take from the forest but maintain it at the same time.”

He noted that REDD+ is not a “hands-off approach.” It focuses both on conservation as well as on improving sustainable forest management.

“It’s about how you can restore forests so that they are more productive, produce more for the local populations and store more carbon.”

Among the projects connected with REDD+ is a programme called Socio Bosque in Ecuador that provides funding to forest owners and communities to better manage their forests. The programme was launched in 2008 with the aim of conserving over five million hectares of forest, avoiding 13.5 million tons of carbon emissions per year and providing additional income to more than two million poor people in the country.

“The money that those communities receive has to be reinvested into the community infrastructure into education and healthcare services,” Mr. Christophersen said. “And for the rural population in Ecuador, this is a very important incentive for them to keep their forests.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44680&Cr=forest&Cr1=

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Sustainable urban infrastructure can foster economic growth

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17 April 2013 – Developing sustainable urban infrastructure benefits not just the environment, but can also boost economic growth and social stability, according to a United Nations report released today, which stresses the need to transition to resource-efficient technologies in cities, given scarce natural resources.

“To date, the trend towards urbanization has been accompanied by increased pressure on the environment and growing numbers of urban poor,” said the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, at the launch of the report in Nairobi, Kenya.

“But unique opportunities exist for cities to lead the greening of the global economy by increasing resource productivity and innovation, while achieving major financial savings and addressing environmental challenges,” Mr. Steiner said.

The report, ‘City-Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions,’ argues that sustainable city infrastructures can sustain economic growth while using fewer resources.

Around three-quarters of the world’s natural resources are already consumed in cities, and the proportion of the global population living in urban areas is set to rise to 70 per cent by 2050.

The study says much greater effort is needed to support new and improved infrastructure for water, energy, transport, waste and other sectors – generally located in and around cities – to wean the world off unsustainable consumption patterns, and avoid serious economic and environmental implications for future generations.

The report, which was produced by the UNEP-hosted International Resource Panel (IRP), features 30 case studies around the world that show how sustainable infrastructures have created scores of green jobs and reduced environmental degradation.

Fore example, in Melbourne, Australia, carbon emissions dropped by 40 per cent after the introduction of energy efficiency measures in public buildings, while in Cape Town, South Africa, a re-fit of low income housing with solar water heaters and efficient lighting has saved over 6,500 tonnes of carbon per year, cut respiratory illnesses by 75 per cent, and reduced the cost of hot water for poor households.

Other efforts involve reducing oil consumption by moving more people and goods onto public transport powered by electricity, or re-establishing urban farms to supply locally grown food.

The cost of meeting the urban infrastructure requirements of the world’s cities between 2000 and 2030 is estimated at $40 trillion – both through the building of new infrastructure or retrofitting existing facilities, the report states.

“Older cities may have to retrofit and replace inefficient infrastructure into which they have been locked for decades to achieve decoupling, but newer and expanding cities have the advantage of flexibility. They can ‘get it right’ the first time,” said the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Joan Clos.

“In an era of rising energy prices, an early transition to systems that consume increasingly cheaper renewable energy sources will pay off quickly,” Mr. Clos said.

The report also provides recommendations for city planners to minimize environmental damage and maximize the potential for using resources more sustainably.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44685&Cr=urban&Cr1=

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FEATURE: Private sector emerges as key potential funder of sustainable forest management

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17 April 2013 – As countries around the world struggle to find the necessary funds to sustainably manage their forests, the private sector is emerging as a key source of financing that, if tapped properly, could result in benefits for the environment along with profits for businesses.

“The private sector is among the new, emerging and innovative sources of forest financing,” Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Hu Wongbo said during the tenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF10). “Private sector financing has the potential to play a major role in the implementation of sustainable forest management.”

The Forum’s two-week session in Istanbul is expected to conclude this Friday with a number of key decisions, including on financing. An estimated $70 to $160 billion in global funding will be needed for sustainable forest management, or SFM, according to a 2012 study cited by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his report to the Forum.

“Most countries are unable to raise adequate public funds for the forest sector, and reinvestment of revenues in forest management has been minimal,” Mr. Ban says, adding that the private sector, including forest communities, smallholders, industry and other investors, is a key source of financing.

While funding continues to be sought from traditional sources such as government budgets at the national level, and official development assistance, or ODA, at the international level, Mr. Wu noted that decision-makers are increasingly aware of the “changing landscape” of forest financing.

“Large companies are, undoubtedly, one of the least tapped sources of forest investment and financing. Yet they are also among our most important partners in the implementation of sustainable forest management.”

Experience on the ground has shown that there are win-win opportunities for all in sustainable forest management – for private companies, for local communities and for the environment, he stated, citing his own country, China, where businesses, farmers and local governments work together to fight soil erosion, land degradation and to promote reforestation.

“In many cases, companies have been able to secure returns on their investments in resource conservation; local farmers have continuously improved their sustainable livelihoods; and local economies have flourished,” he said.

The private sector can help in many ways, including through large-scale investments using direct financing or carbon credits; through public-private partnerships aimed at reliable provision of health, education and transportation for remote, forest-dwelling communities; or through government-regulated sustainable practices for forest management on timber concessions or private lands.

“However, we must also take a hard look at the impediments that discourage private investment in many countries,” Mr. Wu added. “To attract them to invest, we must all work side by side. It is the only way forward.”

Tuukka Castrén, Senior Forestry Specialist at the World Bank, agreed that the money needs to come from different sources. “ODA will play a role, and often it can play a catalytic role.

“But for genuine scaling up, we need to engage the private sector,” he said, adding that businesses, which have a legitimate interest in making money, can make a profit through sustainable forest management.

The World Bank Group provided close to $490 million in financing for forests in fiscal year 2012. Forest resources are crucial to the Bank’s mission of eradicating poverty because of their contribution to the livelihoods of the poor, the potential they offer for sustainable economic development, and the essential environmental services they provide.

While the Bank does not have data on the growing interest by the private sector in investing in sustainable forest management, “we have the feeling that the wind is blowing in that direction,” said Mr. Castrén.

He added that the largest investor group in sustainable forest management is the millions and millions of smallholder farmers who plant two or three trees on their farms to provide shade, fuel wood and provide watershed management functions.

“They are also investors and play a fundamental role in the whole system, even though we are not able to capture their contributions in our statistics.”

Another key source of financing for sustainable forest management is the UN-backed Global Environment Facility (GEF), which announced during the Forum that its financial support for forest management programmes recently hit the $500 million mark.

Ian Gray, Senior Forest Specialist at the GEF, noted that there are so many different demands in sustainable forest management that it is necessary to have a broader approach to financing.

“I think we’ve been hearing this week from many of the delegates that SFM is such a broad topic that you actually need a suite of funding processes and mechanisms. Some of those will be from national funds. But there is also a need and a call for the private sector to be able to contribute to that.”

In attracting the private sector, Mr. Gray stressed the need to ensure that the environment in recipient countries is conducive to investment and that sound policies are in place to ensure that sustainable forest management can fulfil its objectives.

The GEF is supporting projects such as one in Burundi that uses a certification process for coffee to help coffee growers move from open-grown coffee to more shade-grown production methods that would allow for reforestation. “By using the power of the market, we’re able to incentivize growers in that region to adopt sustainable practices for forests but also for growing coffee,” said Mr. Gray.

“The ideas are derived from the countries themselves,” he added. “Our key role is to try and make that process of accessing the funding that the GEF has as simple as possible.”

There is a growing interest from private sector investors, as well as from other public sectors given the multiple benefits and services provided by forests, said Tim Christophersen, Senior Programme Officer with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“We see increasing interest from public sectors such as transport, water, energy to invest in forests as the green infrastructure that they need for their objectives,” he stated.

Among the ways UNEP seeks to make the case for investment in forests is through the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), which seeks to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies to sustainable development.

“A lot more money is needed. There is no doubt about that,” said Mr. Christophersen, adding that large-scale investments by the private sector have not happened due to factors such as high transaction costs and associated risks.

“We are helping the private sector to work through those challenges to be able to invest more into sustainable, productive, resilient landscapes that can take up more carbon, produce more food, have more biodiversity, and produce more jobs and livelihoods.”

Working with the private sector will be crucial, he stressed, given the billions of dollars that will be needed to sustainably manage the world’s forests.

“That kind of money is not going to come from ODA,” he stated.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44690&Cr=forest&Cr1=

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FEATURE: Indigenous activist fights to save his tribe and the Amazon rainforest

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16 April 2013 – Almir Narayamoga Surui was born into an indigenous Amazonian tribe – the Paiter-Surui – in Rondonia in north-west Brazil at a time when his people had very little contact with the world outside of the forest. He is the first member of the Surui to attend college, and for more than 20 years has been fighting to save both his tribe and the Amazon rainforest.

Mr. Surui was one of five people honoured with the Forest Hero Award from the United Nations Forum on Forests, which is currently meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. The award recognizes “unsung heroes” from around the world who are working to sustain, protect and manage forests.

“He has brought his tribe back from the brink of extiThe forest teaches us things, gives us our food and medicines. It supplies materials for our spiritual life. All of these things, the forest offers to us, it is part of our livesnction through ingenious and courageous environmental and political activism,” Daniel Shaw of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and a juror for the Forest Hero Awards, said of Mr. Surui.

By the time Mr. Surui was born in 1974 and his people had some “contact with white people,” his tribe already faced problems with economic exploitation and disease. “My people were reduced from 5,000 people to 295 persons,” he stated.

The impact of development on the Surui population is manifold and includes environmental, cultural and economic aspects, he noted. “Every time there is development growth, there is also population growth and this population growth is made up of non-indigenous people and this impacts our own people.”

“Today, for us, it is a real challenge to protect our forests,” he acknowledged, noting that large development projects in the region also bring with them negative social and environmental consequences.

“Nowadays, forests in the Amazon are located inside indigenous lands. In territories that do not belong to indigenous groups, the forests do no exist anymore,” said Mr. Surui. “This is the reason why it is so difficult for us to keep the forests and that’s why we are looking for and struggling for a national policy whereby we have the support of the population in terms of utilizing everything sustainably that the forest gives to us.”

After being elected chief of his tribe at the age of 17, Mr. Surui successfully lobbied the state government to build schools, wells and medical clinics for the Surui and other tribes in the rainforest. He spearheaded the creation of a 50-year plan, which encompasses large-scale conservation efforts, reforestation projects and activities that offer economic alternatives to exploiting the forest.

Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui has been working for more than 20 years to save his tribe, the Paiter-Surui, and the Amazon rainforest. UN Photo/Metehan Kurt

“There is tendency in my country to equate development with cutting down trees. This is what we try to combat. We can have development without cutting down the trees,” said Mr. Surui.

During the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, indigenous peoples’ rights to forests was clearly recognized as a crucial component to preserve the environment and solve the global environmental crisis.

However, according to the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs, the process in this regard has been slow, and indigenous peoples continue to lobby governments for the full legal recognition of their traditional land rights.

In fact, in many countries, indigenous peoples lack any legal title to their land, and in other instances, even if they count on a title, governments can revoke it at any time.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a framework for indigenous peoples’ rights to forests and recognizes the right to make decisions and to be involved in the decision making process. Indigenous peoples have a right to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent on activities that may affect their lands, territories and livelihoods.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, has warned that the extraction of natural resources and other major development projects in or near the territories of indigenous peoples is one of the most significant sources of abuse of their human rights worldwide.

“In its prevailing form, the model for advancing with natural resource extraction within the territories of indigenous peoples appears to run counter to the self-determination of indigenous peoples in the political, social and economic spheres,” he told a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in one of his reports.

The efforts of his tribe to protect the forests have not been without costs, Mr. Surui said. Last year, the lives of 12 Surui leaders were threatened. Today, there are seven leaders who are the subject to threats and are under the protection of the police and representatives of the Government’s human rights office.

He said the basic struggle is how to recognize the value of forests and how forests contribute to the continuity of human life.

“My people, the Surui, have a very close relationship with the forest. We are born in the forest; the forest is everything to us. The forest teaches us things, gives us our food and medicines. It supplies materials for our spiritual life. All of these things, the forest offers to us, it is part of our lives,” he said.

Among his many achievements, Mr. Surui convinced the World Bank to re-structure a regional development programme to better benefit local indigenous groups. He is hoping to generate income for the Paiter-Surui by selling forest carbon credits. To achieve this goal, he convinced technology giant Google to help the tribe use digital technology to monitor and map the forest.

With Google Earth technology, the Paiter-Surui tribe is now able to monitor its forests and report on illegal logging activity on the edges of its territory.

“It’s a real challenge for us to keep our forest as it once was,” said Mr. Surui.

“I’m not saying that the forests should remain untouched. What I am saying is that forests must be respected, admired and used in a way that enables us to be able to continue having a relationship with them.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44666&Cr=forest&Cr1=

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